February 02, 2022

Warren, Merkley, Markey Introduce Political CRIMES Act

Bicameral Legislation Will Strengthen the Hatch Act, Establish an Independent Counsel to Probe Violations Under Previous Administrations

Text of Bill (PDF) | Section by Section (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) along Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the Political Corruption Review of Infractions for Misconduct by Executive Servants (CRIMES) Act. First introduced in the House by Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), the legislation will strengthen the Hatch Act and establish an independent counsel to probe violations in order to better stop the self-enrichment by government officials. The Hatch Act is a federal law that bars executive branch employees from engaging in partisan political activities using their official title, or taxpayer-funded government resources, and prevents sitting presidents from using the federal government as an arm of their political campaigns. 

“Donald Trump was the most corrupt president in our nation’s history,” said Senator Warren. “He and his cronies in the administration routinely ignored ethics rules with no accountability. We have to rebuild the public’s faith that government officials will follow basic ethics rules, and that’s why I’m fighting for this bill to strengthen the Hatch Act and punish those who break the law.”

“Public trust in the federal government is undermined when elected officials use the power of their office to gain political advantages or empower themselves instead of serving the people,” said Senator Merkley. “Executive branch officials – regardless of political party – should serve in the best interest of the public, and this legislation ensures that the powerful are held accountable when their own interests are prioritized over those of the people they’re supposed to be working for.”

“Corruption defined the Trump administration, and we owe it to the American people to ensure overt flouting of the law cannot happen again,” said Senator Markey. “We need to ensure ethical violations are fully investigated and wrongdoers are held to full account. I’m proud to join Senator Warren and my colleagues on this important bill to strengthen the Hatch Act.”

“Public servants should not be able to treat the federal government as a piggy bank to be pilfered from and pillaged. Yet, this is precisely what occurred in the last administration, where Trump regime appointees used their public offices to line their pockets and made a mockery of the law,” said Representative Pascrell. “Too many Trump stooges like Kellyanne Conway and Kayleigh McEnany and family members masquerading as public servants like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner violated the Hatch Act without major consequence. Recognizing the current gaps in the law, the Political CRIMES Act will expand the scope of the Hatch Act to apply to all executive branch public servants and impose significant financial and criminal penalties on crooked government officials. In a perverse blessing, the Trump years exposed weaknesses in our legal guardrails. We can’t lose any more time in fixing them. I want to thank Senator Warren for her tireless dedication to cleaning up government corruption.”

The Political CRIMES Act will hold executive branch employees accountable for wrongdoing by: 

  • Establishing an Independent Counsel to probe all Hatch Act violations occurring during the previous 10 years
  • Creating an Inspector General in the Office of Special Counsel to ensure future investigations are conducted within the boundaries of the current law
  • Removing any political interference in the violation referral process
  • Expanding individuals covered by the Hatch Act and clarifying where the Hatch Act applies
  • Adding a criminal penalty for Hatch Act violations for the first time 
  • Increasing the Hatch Act fine violation to $5,000, which would double for every subsequent violation
  • Requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of any political events held on the White House grounds

In 2020, Senator Warren released "Lawlessness and Disorder: The Corrupt Trump Administration Has Made A Mockery of the Hatch Act," a comprehensive report that revealed the extent to which President Trump and his administration corruptly pulled the levers of government for partisan political purposes. Her report found that under President Trump's watch, 14 administration officials had violated the Hatch Act over 50 times and at least another 22 officials were under investigation for nearly 100 more violations.